It seems like we’ve all been there before — the weather begins to warm back up, the flowers begin to bloom and then something in the air starts to make us sneeze. Once we start sneezing, our nose starts to drip like a faucet and then we start dealing with the aftermath of seasonal allergies. And unfortunately, in this day and age, having a runny nose, watery eyes and a cough can sometimes be confused with being sick with an illness, such as COVID-19.
When the weather begins to warm up and the pollen starts to take over, people that have severe allergies end up having some really long, bad days. Fortunately, there are ways to help make the allergies not be so bad and there are even ways to help avoid getting a bad allergy attack. But before we get into that, let’s talk about what allergies are and why we react to them the way we do.
What are Allergies?
Allergies can take on many forms and have several types. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), “An allergy occurs when your body’s immune system sees a certain substance as harmful. It reacts by causing an allergic reaction.” Therefore, things that cause us to have an allergic reaction are called allergens.
As previously stated, allergies can take on many forms. While some allergies are seasonal and seem to come in strides, others can take on a more seemingly permanent manner and be life-long allergies that we struggle with for a long time. Fortunately, there are healthcare providers out there that specialize in these types of health issues, and it’s good to know how to handle an emergency allergic reaction if you ever happen to have one.
Per the AAFA, here are just a few types of allergies you might find:
- ?Drug Allergy: True allergies to drugs (or medicines) only occur in a small number of people; many times, people experience a side effect and think it’s an allergic reaction. A diagnosis of the cause of the drug reaction is usually based only upon the patient’s history and symptoms.
- Food Allergy: Within the category of food allergies, there are many different types of allergic reactions. There are differences between Immunoglobulin E-medicated allergies and non-IgE medicated allergies and food intolerances.
- Insect Allergy: Has an insect ever stung you and had an allergic reaction? Bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets and fire ants are the most common stinging insects that can cause an allergic reaction.
- Latex Allergy: An allergy to latex can be a serious health risk. A latex allergy is an allergic reaction to natural rubber latex, which can include natural rubber latex gloves, balloons, condoms and other natural rubber products.
- Mold Allergy: Mold and mildew are fungi, and since fungi grow in so many places, both indoors and outdoors, allergic reactions to this type of substance can occur year round.
- Pet Allergy: Allergies to pets with fur are fairly common, unfortunately. Although we love them dearly, pets can end up being one of the biggest sources of common, year round allergies.
- Pollen Allergy: Pollen is one of the most common triggers of seasonal allergies. Many people know pollen allergy as “hay fever,” but experts usually refer to it as “seasonal allergic rhinitis.”
Unfortunately, pollen allergies are the biggest cause of allergies that we experience around this time of the year. According to the AAFA, “Each spring, summer and fall, plants release tiny pollen grains to fertilize other plants of the same species. Most of the pollen that causes allergic reactions come from trees, weeds and grasses.”
Ragweed, which you may find lurking around your yard, is the most common source of weed allergies. Sagebrush, pigweed, lamb’s quarters and tumbleweeds are also a fairly common source of allergies. Even certain types of trees, such as birch, cedar and oak, can sometimes produce highly allergenic pollen.
Seasonal allergies are so common, in fact, that you can even find a “pollen count” reported by the local weather forecast. The pollen count lets you know how much pollen is in the air and they can sometimes even include what types of pollen to look out for. So, when you start to feel some allergy symptoms coming on, what are some things you can do?
Tips to Deal with Seasonal Allergies
Dealing with allergies is never fun. Typically, symptoms of pollen allergies include: having a runny nose and mucus production, sneezing, itchy nose, eyes, ears and mouth, stuffy nose, red and watery eyes, as well as swelling around the eyes. Once these symptoms start, you can try using over-the-counter medicines to help reduce the symptoms as much as possible. From nasal sprays to pills, there are a multitude of medicines out there to help.
However, there are few steps you can try to take to help prevent pollen allergies as well:
- Shut Out Breezes: Although it’s tempting to open your windows and doors on a beautiful, sunny day, it could be the reason that pollen is getting into your home; if the pollen count is high, keep the windows and doors closed to protect your indoor air. You can also install a HEPA filter on your air-conditioning system and a flat or panel filter on your furnace.
- Wash Up: When you walk into your home, you bring small pieces of the outside world with you. So, after being outdoors, your clothes, shoes, hair and skin are covered with small particles from everywhere you’ve been. By taking a shower or bath, you can wash away the allergens. And, remember to leave your shoes at the door.
- Wear a Mask: Although we should be used to the mask-wearing conditions by now, wearing a mask can also be helpful in keeping allergens from getting into your airways. When you can’t avoid certain triggers, such as working in the yard or running a vacuum, a N95 respirator mask can block 95% of small particles, such as pollen and other allergens.
- Eat Healthy: There have been studies that show children who ate more fresh vegetables, fruits, and nuts – particularly grapes, apples, organs and tomatoes – had fewer allergy symptoms.
- Stay Hydrated: When you have a stuffy nose or post nasal drip from your allergies, sip more water, juice or other beverages that will help. Extra liquid can thin the mucus in your nasal passages and give you some relief.
- Inhale Some Steam: To help you breathe a little better, try holding your head over a warm (but not too hot) bowl or sink full of water and place a towel over your head to strap the steam. You can also try sitting in a bathroom with a hot shower running.
- Know Your Triggers: If you don’t know what is causing the allergic reaction, you can only be taking an educated guess at that point; however, if you want to find out what specifically you are allergic to, you can find a healthcare specialist that can give you an allergy skin test to pinpoint your triggers.
So, when the weather starts to warm up, do you and your loved ones a favor by looking up and researching the pollen count before opening up the windows and doors leading to the outside. Even though some fresh air can never hurt, it can when it’s filled with pollen allergies that you might want to avoid.